Forget the grades

Clara Sloan, Opinion Editor

When junior Madeline Merckling, a National Honor Society inductee with above a 4.0 grade point average, was called to Associate Principal Sam Ruff’s office, she knew something was wrong.

The hunch was right. The Wildcat Honor Card she received at the beginning of the year, along with benefits including leaving 10 minutes early for Seminar every day, early release every other Friday and trips to the Union with teachers’ permission was suddenly revoked. The reason: she had missed six days of school last semester.

Six days out of roughly 74. That’s 92 percent of the semester she attended last year.

“I missed those days because I was truly sick,” Merckling said. “I had the flu for a few days in December, and the rest I missed because I had a really bad cold earlier in the year.”

According to USD 232’s Exclusion Policy, the district asks that parents keep students home if their temperature reaches 100 degrees or higher. Merckling’s reached a crippling 102.

Nevertheless, she easily maintained her 4.1 GPA, earning her second academic letter and a place on the honor roll for the fifth consecutive semester. But it was not enough to keep her Honor Card.

“I just don’t understand why the card relies on attendance. If I’m able to miss the few days that I do, and for good reasons, and still keep good grades, why should it matter?” Merckling said.

Similarly, junior Taylor Hoffman missed a few days in November to compete in horseback riding Nationals in Tennessee, then another day later on for a family emergency. Her card was revoked.

“It’s the family emergency part that gets me,” Hoffman said. “Like I chose that.”

Even absences that are excused, as opposed to ones that are not, more presumably skipping, are counted towards the four day, 20-period limit. This has been students’ main grievance.  

Ruff argues that excluding excused absences from the limit could potentially cause problems since students will sometimes ask their parent to call in for an excused absence.

Some students may remember a time when honor cards were silver, gold or platinum cards, depending on the requirements met. Just a few years ago, a committee was formed to create a new system that would offer students just one card as an incentive.

Even Ruff admits that the four-day absence limit is “a high expectation.”

Luckily, he’s already thinking of ways to improve the system, including possibly excusing those who do not meet the absence limit, but maintain excellent grades. The discussion to be had over reevaluating the system, according to Ruff, should include “more student input,” like getting Student Council or Principal’s Council involved.

For the 40 students whose cards were revoked, and not including the sophomores who did not even receive one, it is not about the daily early release, nor the trips to the Union. It is not about the card.

It is the inaccuracy of evaluating the student body. It is, in essence, the degradation and the retraction of the label “honor” placed on students deemed worthy before those mere four days. It is the hypocrisy of the administration’s long emphasis on the importance of grades.